The first part of a criminal jury trial requires that a jury be selected to hear the case. So, what happens during this jury selection process?
Generally, the first thing that happens is that the court gathers a large pool of people from the community who are called to the court as potential jurors. The judge then gives that whole group of people a set of initial instructions about jury service, and what they can and can’t do as potential jurors.
After the jury has been given an initial set of instructions by the judge, the court, prosecutor, and defense attorney engage in a process called voir dire. This is a process by which the jurors are asked questions about themselves and their lives that are designed to assist the attorneys in determining whether or not the jurors have the ability to listen to the case and decide it in an unbiased manner.
In some courts, the judge is the only person who asks the jurors questions. In others, the questions are asked of the jurors by the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney. Most attorneys prefer when they are permitted to ask questions during voir dire.
The jurors provide answers to the questions posed to them during voir dire, usually in a live question and answer format. However, in some cases, particularly complicated or highly publicized cases, the judge may require that the questions be answered in written form on juror questionnaires.
After the jurors are asked questions, the attorneys for both sides are permitted to strike jurors, or ask that they be removed from the pool of jurors that are permitted to serve on the jury for that particular case.
There are two ways that an attorney, like a criminal defense lawyer Grand Rapids, MI trusts, can strike a juror from the jury panel. First, they can do it by challenging the juror for cause. This means that during the question and answer portion of voir dire, the juror said something that indicated that they couldn’t be fair in the case. For example, if the juror indicated that the prosecutor was her father, the juror would be disqualified from serving in that case. Second, the attorney can use one of their peremptory challenges to strike a juror from the panel. Peremptory challenges are where the attorney is permitted to strike the juror for any reason, and no reason has to be given to the court for striking the juror. Each side is given a fixed number of peremptory challenges in a case, with more serious criminal cases being awarded a higher number of peremptory challenges.
After the attorneys have used up all of their peremptory challenges and have no remaining challenges for cause, or both sides indicate that they are satisfied with the jury, then the remaining jurors will be seated and move forward with hearing and deciding the case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense.